06 May 2008

seeking culinary diversity

salmon salad at chungjeonggak.

i love korean food (how could one not?) but a little culinary diversity is welcome. however, while koreans enjoy imitating "western" things, their well-meaning and enthusiastic execution is usually awkward. so i was pleased this weekend to find two restaurants that serve non-korean fare that's tasty, graceful and unpretentious.

an architectural breath of fresh air.

case in point, last week was gorgeous so i walked home from city hall. along the way i found a beautiful restaurant in chungjeongno. chungjeonggak is far off any beaten path in seoul where one would expect to find an italian eatery meets modern art gallery. nevertheless, the fetching setting is a 100-year-old house just off of subway exit #8.

books as table legs? c'mon now.

tucked behind more typically ugly seoul edifices, chungjeonggak's modern, whitewashed innards are filled with art (much of it very silly), and a large terrace area with huge trees and potential. after enjoying a chilled smoked salmon salad, i had the oven spaghetti and a nice house red wine, while boy wonder ordered a delicious and subtly nutty carbonara. our waiter was attentive but not a babysitter (we were the only customers until half-way through our meal). all in all, unless the mosquitoes sabotage my plans, i'll head back soon with several friends for a terrace dinner party.

a cute hole in the wall for brunch. like most of hongdae, i think the yellow bike is just for show.

in search of sunday brunch (american-style brunch is not as ubiquitous in seoul as some new york times articles would have you believe) i did a first: i used a korean internet portal (naver) to find a brunch location near-ish to my house. no big surprise we were directed towards hongdae, the way-too-trendy neighborhood abutting hongik university, which is just one subway stop away from sinchon. thanks to a bad map, we wandered down several alleys covered in silly, designer graffiti and ridiculous konglish before finding a simple one-room rectangle of a café called d'avant.

almost done... with half a jug of sangria to wash it down.

my choice was a slightly sweet pancake filled with ham and topped with cheese and two fried eggs (with sour yogurt on the side) and he had a savory waffle with bacon, eggs and cooked cherry tomatoes. oh, and we shared a pitcher of sangria. mmmm... that made everything better. precise directions escape me, but walk down the car park street to almost the very end. take a left and then another left on one of the small streets.


corextacy said...

i love how you could find such places in seoul. so many beautiful places seem to hidden in korea. i'm definitely going here with my family :)

matt said...

yes yes! definitely take them. but as you probably already know, there are lots of nice brunch places in gangnam. it's a little harder for us gangbuk types. xo